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Why Did Obama Trust Big Oil?

This comment, from the President’s press conference on Thursday, still bothers me.

Where I was wrong was in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios.

Why? Surely, Obama knew that after 8 years of Arbusto/Halliburton in the White House and Republicans dominant in Congress, oversight and regulation of the oil industry was in terrible shape. Noted Nancy Pelsoi,

Many of the people appointed in the Bush administration are still burrowed in the agencies that are supposed to oversee the [oil] industry,” Pelosi said when asked if Democrats could have prevented or mitigated the crisis by keeping a closer watch on the industry.

And just last year — not exactly ancient history — BP was hit with a record fine for their negligence in a 2005 Texas City refinery explosion, which killed 15 people and wounded 180.

The fall-out from the [Texas City] accident continues to cloud BP’s corporate image because of the mismanagement at the plant. There have been several investigations of the disaster, the most recent being that from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board which “offered a scathing assessment of the company.” OSHA found “organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels of the BP Corporation” and said management failures could be traced from Texas to London.

The company pleaded guilty to a felony violation of the Clean Air Act, was fined $50 million, and sentenced to three years probation.

On October 30, 2009, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined BP an additional $87 million — the largest fine in OSHA history — for failing to correct safety hazards revealed in the 2005 explosion. Inspectors found 270 safety violations that had been previously cited but not fixed and 439 new violations.

So I just can’t understand why anyone would believe that a business with “organizational and safety deficiencies at all levels” — that had just been hit with a record fine and a $1.6 billion dollar legal settlement — “had its act together” with respect to accidents. It’s baffling.

Unfortunately, I think this gets to the root of Obama’s tragic flaw. He’s simply too comfy with the institutions that need aggressive confrontation. So the War on Terror(TM) isn’t wound down — it’s ramped up — because he believes the Pentagon has its act together. Health care reform comes at the price of giving Big Pharma and Big Insurance what they want up front — because he believes, as he said of BP, that “their interests are aligned with the public interest.” Financial reform is watered down, because Obama believes that what’s good for Wall Street is good for Main Street.

How many more subprime crashes and oil spills and 9/11s and mining accidents and Enrons and WorldComs and Iraqs will it take for Obama to notice that these organizations don’t have their act together?

And what will he do about it?

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